Forwarded from the desk of Rep. David Gomberg:
On Saturday morning I joined the Beachcomber Days parade in Waldport. As is my practice, I walked the parade route, greeting folks along the sidewalk. On four separate occasions, people stood up and told him how distressed they were that families detained by ICE were being separated and children were being warehoused in Texas.
My sad reply was that the situation was much closer than they imagined. The previous day, I had been informed that 123 detainees were being held here in Oregon at the Federal Correctional Institution in Sheridan. That’s in our very own House District 10.
Saturday afternoon, I joined members of Oregon’s congressional delegation, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, Sen. Ron Wyden, Sen. Jeff Merkley, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer on the grounds of the detention center in Sheridan. (I was the only other elected official there.) They were able to tour the center and meet the detainees. The delegation was emotional and visibly upset. Their report was shocking.
Of the 123 people now in Sheridan, 52 listed India as their home country. Several identified themselves as Sikhs or Christians fleeing religious persecution from the Hindu majority. Other detainees being held in Oregon are men from Pakistan, China, Nepal, Ukraine, Guatemala, and Mexico. Many of the detainees applied for asylum at points of entry along the U.S. border.
The East Indians told the congressional delegation that Hindi and Punjabi translators who came Saturday were the first outsiders they’ve been able to talk to since they were imprisoned weeks ago. The migrants said they are locked up 22 to 23 hours a day, three to a cell. They have no access to legal services, clergy, or religiously appropriate food, and often, cellmates do not speak the same language. Those with families say they have no idea where their wives or children are, and they fear they’ll be deported and separated from them forever.
I understand that many of us have strong and differing opinions on immigration issues. But ripping children away from their families, denying asylum seekers access to a lawyer, and segregating and dividing nationalities so they cannot even communicate with cellmates is cruel, inhumane, and illegal. We’re Oregonians. These things are not acceptable here. I was proud to stand with our Federal delegation in Sheridan on Saturday.
I urge you to view the entire Sheridan press conference at: https://www.facebook.com/katunews/videos/10155791074631448/UzpfSTU4MjQ3MzU2NTQ4NjQwMTo1ODU3NzA4NTUxNTY2NzI/
A vigil is planned outside the prison on Monday, June 18 at 5:30 p.m. Details about the event are online at: https://www.facebook.com/events/582473565486401/.
I finished my day Saturday walking the Sheridan Days parade. Again, people asked about the detainees. One observer told me, “These are illegals and have no rights here.” I replied that this is America and everyone has rights. In this case, some derive from the U.S. Constitution, federal immigration laws, and international treaties. But rights also derive from fundamental concerns of human compassion and decency.
I will stand up for those rights, now and always.
Representative David Gomberg
House District 10
email: Rep.DavidGomberg@oregonlegislature.gov I phone: 503-986-1410
address: 900 Court St NE, H-371, Salem, OR, 97301